Infants and Children in the Church: Five Views on Theology and Ministry
Edited by Adam Harwood and Kevin E. Lawson
Nashville: B & H Academic, 2017. 232 Pages. Softcover. $24.99
Reviewed by Rev. Jonathan Lange, Pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Evanston, Wyoming, Pastor, Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Kemmerer, Wyoming on 07/31/2018
Our world is increasingly hostile, not only to Christianity but, to any notion of transcendence whatsoever. In such a climate, we are constantly tempted to pursue unity by glossing over precise definitions and dogmatic framework. Joint statements are easier to achieve unencumbered by precision. That is why sub-par ecumenism is typically driven by pragmatism and lubricated by equivocation.
Such is not the case with the “Five Views on Theology and Ministry” series. The format of this work allows each contributor an extended forum to develop and defend his particular theology. The result is a refreshingly candid discussion that goes far beneath the surface.
The editors set out to explore four basic questions of theology pertaining to children: 1) How are infants and children impacted by sin? 2) How does God treat people who die in infancy or childhood? 3) When and how are children considered members of the Church? 4) When and how are children instructed in Christian doctrine?
Answers given by the various authors reveal the fundamental differences between the systems represented. The biggest surprise to this reviewer was the amount of space devoted to the doctrine of Scripture and Church authority. On the one hand, the respective declarations from each denomination were just what one would expect. On the other hand, some authors—the Orthodox and Baptist in particular—struggled to live up to their own principles.
Dr. David Scaer’s chapter was solidly Scriptural and profoundly simple. Lutheran readers will not be disappointed. It seemed to be the only chapter that remained consistent with Scripture both on the doctrine of original sin and on the doctrine of faith. Other chapters revealed numerous instances of qualifying sola Scriptura by human reason. Interesting, as well, were the many intrusions of human will into the doctrines of sin, faith, and salvation.
Despite its title and scope being limited to children and infants, this book offers a comprehensive view of five doctrinal systems. It could easily serve as the sole text for an entire course exploring the differences between the five denominations represented.
Jesus said, “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3). By so saying, Christ declares that one’s theology and ministry toward children, reveals all of one’s theology and ministry.